Duke opens the 2021-22 season—which will be Coach K’s last on the bench—at Madison Square Garden, against Kentucky in the Champions Classic.
Duke is hoping to put a disappointing 2020-21 campaign behind it, after missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 26 years, but Kentucky has an deeper depths to emerge from. The Wildcats went 9-16 last season, their worst mark in more than 90 years.
Like Duke, who has an experienced core of returning players and transfers to support its freshman class, Kentucky has drifted from the one-and-done mode. This will be the most experienced team John Calipari has had in Kentucky, although most of the experience came with other schools.
Former West Virginia big man Oscar Tshiebwe will man the middle for Kentucky after averaging close to a double-double in two years under Bob Huggins. Davidson 2,000 point scorer Kellan Grady and former Georgia point guard Sahvir Wheeler are also expected to start. Kentucky also returns junior Keion Brooks, one of the few Wildcats to last at least three years in Big Blue.
Kentucky even has a super senior of its own in shooter Davion Mintz.
That doesn’t mean Calipari has ignored the recruiting trail. His freshman class includes TyTy Washington, who hit all six of his three-point attempts in Kentucky’s two exhibition games, as well as highly rated rookies Daimion Collins and Bryce Hopkins.
At 6-foot-9, Tshiebwe is the biggest Kentucky player, but is giving up three inches to Mark Williams and an inch to forward Paolo Banchero.
Your starters: Roach, Keels, Moore, Williams, Banchero
Kentucky with a strong effort on the offensive boards early but Duke up 7-6 at the under 16
Kentucky now lighting it up from deep. Wildcats are 3 of 5 from three. Duke still up by one, 19-18
Banchero leading all scorers with 12. Moore has 8. Duke up by 6 in the final four minutes of the first half.
Kentucky now 5-9 from three, 7-27 everywhere else. Long range shooting and offensive rebounding keeping them in the game.
Duke outplayed Kentucky for the half, but rebounding (12 OR for Kentucky to just 5 for Duke) and 3-pointers (UK 6-of-11, DU 1-of-9) have kept Big Blue in it. 39-35 at the half.
Kentucky briefly takes the lead, but back-to-back Duke layups put Blue Devils back up and cause UK to call time. 51-48, under 16
Banchero limped off the floor and was taken to the locker room, possible cramps based on how they were treating it.
Now Moore goes to the bench with possible cramps.
Keels with two baskets and an assist to John and Duke is up nine. Time out Kentucky.
Banchero is back at the scorers table, ready to check in. Looks like Moore is now getting checked in the locker room.
Duke up 11, but now it looks like Keels is getting stretched on the sideline.
Banchero scores and limps after landing. Looks like more cramps. Duke calls time to take him out.
Duke returns all three crampees--Banchero, Moore and Keels--to the floor.
7-0 UK run makes it a four-point game with 5:33 left.
Williams block, Keels driving layup, Williams block, Banchero layup and one. Duke up nine, 74-65, 4:19 left.
Duke gets a tied up ball to take it from UK. We hit the under four with Duke up nine
And Duke dribbles it out for a 79-71 win.